When you meet with a divorce lawyer for the first time, you will almost certainly be counseled to do your best to restrain any frustrations you may be feeling.
Very few people come into the divorce process truly amicably, and many arrive with metaphorical steam pouring out of their ears as they outline the various misdeeds of their soon-to-be former spouse.
Your lawyer will explain that things like argumentative phone calls to your spouse, rude texts, or harassing e-mails will likely be catalogued and may end up as exhibits in a divorce trial, should your case go that route.
But what happens when you’re married to a prominent professional whose business endeavors are worth millions?
For starters, your ability to attract attention to whatever plights you may blame your spouse for is much higher.
But all those rules about phone calls, text messages and e-mails? Not only do they still apply, but now you have an entire other constellation of ways to attack your ex, and those rules should be strictly adhered to, across the board.
This story is about what happens when an angry, frustrated spouse throws good advice out the window and takes to the tabloids to pressure her estranged husband.
Spoiler alert: It’s costing her a huge sum of money and has stretched her divorce case out for years.
The divorce of Ira and Janice Schacter began in 2008, after the couple had been married for about 20 years.
While many marriages end with loud fights or quiet conversations, this one kicked off with a domestic violence charge.
According to contemporary and subsequent reports, what appears to have happened is that Ira and Janice were fighting when she bit his finger hard enough to draw blood.
He responded, he says in self-defense, by choking her.
Police were called, photographs were taken, and Ira was soon the recipient of domestic violence charges and was the subject of an order of protection that Janice was awarded.
Those charges were eventually dropped, as was the order of protection, but clearly, this was a couple on the edge.
It’s probably important to note that both are trained lawyers.
While Janice left her job as an associate at a personal injury practice when their first child was born, Ira is a hugely successful corporate lawyer at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, an international firm where he’s responsible for major accounts and eye-popping sums of money.
In a New York divorce, the value of one’s license to practice a profession like medicine or law is considered part of the marital estate, and it, as well as future earnings, are taken into account in settlement negotiations.
For obvious reasons, both sides sought out celebrity lawyers to represent them, Ira trying to minimize his losses and Janice trying to maximize her gains.
The case wasn’t settled until 2015, and even now, appeals courts are reviewing various aspects of their wild divorce.
About two years into the divorce, the situation got very personal, and very public.
Janice went to the press with a laundry list of complaints against her estranged husband that resulted in salacious headlines and professional ridicule for Ira.
The story the New York Post ran had everything its editor could have wished for: an angry spouse spilling the beans, an older, rich lawyer chasing a Playboy Bunny many decades his junior, a pricey engagement ring, and a child left wanting while her father’s attention was elsewhere.
As Janice told it, Ira had fallen in love with a woman named Lace Rose Allenius, then 26, who had once been Playboy’s Co-Ed of the Week and spent two years in a relationship with actor Matt Dillon.
After she and Ira dated for a time, he presented her with a $215,000, 8.5 carat diamond engagement ring, while his own teenage daughter was in need of a pair of $12,000 hearing aids to address an auditory health issue.
According to the court orders in place at the time, Janice was responsible for the day-to-day decision making about the daughter’s condition and treatment plan, and Ira was responsible for paying the bills related to them.
The legal blog Above The Law dove into this story with abandon, and made Ira one of the contestants on the site’s regular “Lawyer of the Month” reader poll.
Aside from covering the Playboy Bunny fiance aspect, they also recalled the 2008 domestic violence charge that was levied against Ira and then dropped.
All in all, the site’s report contained intensely toxic allegations which were either later dismissed or, in the case of the hearing aids dispute, never rebutted by the man himself.
Unlike most reader polls for a “Whatever of the Month,” Above The Law’s list doesn’t celebrate the good acts of New York’s legal elite, but instead blisters top lawyers for stupidity, vanity, and public misconduct.
Ira’s story had all of this and more, and he ended up finishing second place.
In other words, his estranged wife was tormenting him in public and damaging his reputation, and its value, in his profession.
It wasn’t the only instance of Janice destructively acting out, either to the press or in court.
Throughout the proceedings she occasionally risked contempt charges for being disruptive and disrespectful in court.
Ira responded to the Post story by asking the court for a gag order against his wife because she wouldn’t promise not to leak his personal tax returns.
All of this while Ira’s lucrative career was providing the funds for the $3.2 million Upper East Side townhouse where Janice and the kids continued to live, a monthly child support payment in the tens of thousands of dollars, and trips abroad with the kids, including one where their teenage son rang up $11,000 in cell phone charges.
In 2014, Ira made claims about one element of their settlement in particular.
Essentially, Janice had been awarded 50% of the value of Ira’s law license, which amounted to $2.5 million for her.
Ira made the case that Janice’s public attacks had damaged his reputation and diminished the value of the license.
The judge agreed with his assessment, cutting Janice’s stake in his licensure to just $855,000.
Now, Ira has put the matter to an appeals court for an even steeper reduction.
He wants the value of his law license, for purposes of the divorce settlement, to be downgraded from $5 million to just $1.6 million, based on the damages Janice inflicted.
Janice would still be entitled to a portion of the value, but the odds of her receiving a 50% cut of the revised price don’t seem good. Her $2.5 million payout may end up being just a fraction of the original figure by the time Ira and the appeals courts are finished.
The moral of the story is: Don’t air your dirty laundry in the press.
Listen to your lawyers, and get the best advice out there.
It’s imperative to hire a divorce attorney who can protect you and your interests in court.
When your marriage in Queens is ending, call the experienced divorce team at Zelenitz, Shapiro & D’Agostino at 718-523-1111 for a free consultation.